By Steven Norris

O God,

     I confess that I may have lied this week. Lied is such a strong word. Maybe I can rightly say that I didn’t believe as I was supposed to believe…or was expected to believe. I said the right words with my mouth, reading them straight from Holy Scripture: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”

     I want that to be true. In my gut, I think that it is true. But, can we be honest for a moment? What kind of a refuge was provided for the 90 or so houses that are now destroyed? Where was the very present help for the 400 or more houses that are now deemed “uninhabitable?”

     Lives were spared — I understand that. But lives were forever changed in the matter of a few short, terrifying minutes. This week, I’ve sat with families who wept as they sat in the rubble, having lost everything that they worked a lifetime to build up. I’ve listened as residents relived the terror of not knowing whether they were going to live or die. Some are still without basic power.

     Yet, I hear Your words to Job echoing in the recesses of my soul: “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. On what were its bases sunk, or who laid the cornerstone? . . . Can you lift up your voice to the clouds, that a flood of waters may cover you? Can you send forth lightnings, that they may go and say to you, ‘Here we are’? . . . Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty?”

     I hear these and I echo with Job, “I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.”

     And so, I look for signs of Your grace and compassion. They are all-too-easy to find, though pain can so easily blind the eye’s perception. In first responders, pulling people from the wreckage of shattered glass, splintered wood, and jagged steel, You were there. In volunteers wielding chainsaws and driving skid steers as though they were extensions of their own limbs, You were there.

     You were there in the comforting voices of volunteers on the other end of the phone line, guiding people to help and you were there in the compassionate embrace of shelter workers. You were there in the generosity of residents seeking to love neighbors in tangible ways. You were there as members of countless churches forgot about the names of their particular tribe, claiming their only true identity as members of the same family.

     You were present in every warm blanket, every hot meals, and every blue tarp sheltering from the subsequent rain. You were there in every outside group that converged on our little town to offer support and presence. You have been present in every bottle of water, every clean set of clothing, every hot shower, and every load of laundry done for a complete stranger — now friend.

     Forgive me for my blindness, Lord. You have been present this whole time if only I had eyes to see and ears to hear. “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.”